Essay on George Orwell’s Essay Titled “Why I Write”


When reading any body of work, one must analyze the validity of the author’s point of view and acknowledge whether or not their words are properly supported and effective. While reading George Orwell’s essay appropriately titled “Why I Write”, he states that all writers have “four great motives for writing” that are all active within them, at any given moment, in varying degrees of intensity (207). The first motive detailed is “sheer egoism”, which is a strong compulsion to write and be remembered. The second and third motives are “aesthetic enthusiasm” which is an appreciation of beauty in the world and “historical impulse” which is the desire to preserve current things for future generations. The final motive is “political purpose” which is a call to action, meant to alter others’ ideas and push the world in a certain direction. After reading this essay, I have concluded that his argument is effective and well-supported through his tone and voice, through his structure, and based on his target audience.

In my opinion, one of the strongest means of support a writer can draw upon is their own experiences. Orwell conducts his expository essay in an introspectively autobiographical voice, meaning he focuses within and on how past events have shaped him as a growing and evolving individual. While detailing his backstory, he encourages the reader to research background information on a writer’s personal life, as he believes a person cannot “assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development” (207). Often times, in researching a writer’s background can be helpful in providing insight into the purpose of the author’s writings and on the historical time period during which the author lived. Tone can be understood better by understanding and being familiar with the author’s personality. 

Orwell structures his essay in such a way that it is clear and coherent, so as to be easily understood by various sections of the general population. The reader can connect to his words and feel compassion towards him and his struggles, which helps to build a rapport between him and his audience. His use of various figures of speech provide differing writing techniques and help him to rephrase ideas eloquently and interestingly. For example, he uses the simile “good prose is like a windowpane”, which means that writing, when done well, provides a window into another reality or another point of view (211). Furthermore, every one of his ideas correlate with each other, which aids to provide clarity and consistency so the reader can easily grasp the concepts that he is writing about. 

Reading this essay, I have found that Orwell’s words are general and relatable in a broad sense, which allows them to have the opportunity to reach a wide scope of recipients, thus allowing his “intended audience” to be varied. One of the main groups of his intended audience is the general and literate readers. Orwell wishes to educate readers on relevant motives and help to open their eyes to possible outstanding bias. Another intended audience is other writers like himself. Detailing the four motives gives other writers the opportunity to acknowledge what motive they agree with on a personal level. At the bottom of every writer’s motive to write, “there lies a mystery” (211). Orwell acknowledges that every writer is different and their motives can vary, but the four base motives that he listed, generally speaking, are valid in the sense that every motive can fit, even somewhat, within them.

When examining the argument of any given piece of literature, my job as the reader is to methodically analyze statements made by an author and come to the conclusion of whether or not I believe their ideas are valid based on the support they provide within their text. While studying Orwell’s essay, I have concluded that his argument, which states an individual’s motives for writing can be filed down to fit into the four base motives: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose, is rational and well grounded. His utilization of a simple and unbiased tone, a clear, easy to follow, and easy to understand structure, and his appeal to both readers and writers alike contribute to the validity and effectiveness of this argument.

 

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